Macau, City of Portugal and China

One doesn’t usually picture China and think of Europe. Yet there is one region of this Asian powerhouse that definitely fits that image: Macau. Sometimes called Macao, this peninsula less than 62km from Hong Kong is second only to that great city in its western aspect. For over 300 years, until just a few years ago, it was dominated by the Portuguese. Churches, museums and much more show that influence.

One of Macau’s great, old church’s is just ruins now: The Ruins of St. Paul’s. Built in 1602, it was run by Jesuits for generations. Made of taipa and wood, the main portion was burned in an 1835 fire. Though only the front stone facade remains standing, there is still ample evidence of what was once a magnificent structure. Well worth a look when you visit this fascinating city.

But one church first built around the same time is still very much in existence. St. Augustine’s Church, named after one of the founders of the Catholic church, was first erected in 1586. The present building dates from 1814 and houses a number of worthy sights. The high altar clad in marble is only one. The magnificent colonnades are still another. But one of the chief attractions is a statue of Jesus at the center of the altar.

The Guia Fort and Lighthouse is another popular tourist destination, and for good reason. Completed in 1638, it is located at the highest point in Macau. Though much of what was once an island has been flattened over the centuries, with the land becoming connected to the mainland, it nestles up against one of the few high hills of the region. It once housed a barracks and ammunition dump, but every part is worth a look, the lighthouse in particular.

The Macau Maritime Museum is a must see, given the strong influence of the sea on this coastal city. Opened just over 20 years ago, it is believed to be sited on the original landing point of the Portuguese who grew to dominate the island. There are numerous displays of Chinese and Portuguese history, a combination you won’t find anywhere else.

But probably the most common attraction, and one of the finest, is the many casinos housed on Macau. There are dozens of gambling houses and, unlike some in parts of Asia, are meticulously maintained. They’re colorful, cheerful and provide Vegas-style excitement.

Located at the mouth of the Pearl River delta, the casinos dot the area with delights to be found nowhere else in this well-known tourist destination. Filled with visitors both from Asia and Europe, as well as locals, here’s where the nighttime action is in Macau.

Come find out for yourself how this jewel off the coast of China has transformed itself from the shady, crime-ridden image found in old films into a modern playground where East meets West.

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